Six years in prison and toilet cleaning for firebrand Sri Lankan monk
Galagodaatte Gnanasara leads the hardline Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or ‘Buddhist Power Force’, which government ministers and Muslims have accused of stirring up violence against Muslims and Christians
A firebrand Buddhist monk was sentenced to six years’ rigorous imprisonment in Sri Lanka on Wednesday for contempt of court.
Galagodaatte Gnanasara had already been sentenced to six months in June for intimidating a woman, whose cartoonist husband was abducted by the military, during a trial two years ago.
The Court of Appeal handed down Wednesday’s additional sentence after finding him guilty of disruptive behaviour during that trial as well.
Rigorous imprisonment in Sri Lanka typically sees convicts performing menial tasks around the prison, such as cleaning toilets, kitchen duties and washing laundry by hand.
Gnanasara, who has faced several previous cases on charges of hate crimes against minority Muslims in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, was admitted to hospital on Tuesday, officials said, and was not present at the sentencing.
His intimidation of Sandya Eknaligoda took place when he attended the 2016 trial of military officers accused of abducting her husband Prageeth in 2010.
Prageeth’s cartoons lampooned former strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse.
Gnanasara accused Eknaligoda and her husband of supporting Tamil extremists and bringing the military into disrepute.
Last year, Gnanasara spent a month on the run as police pursued him in connection with a string of attacks against Muslims. He later surrendered.
His Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), or Buddhist Force, has denied allegations it was behind riots against Muslims in 2017 and 2014 that left four people dead.
A BBS official said the group would appeal against Wednesday’s ruling.
“We feel there is an attempt by interested parties to have judicial process targeting Gnanasara, therefore, though we do not agree with the judgment, we accept the sentence, and we will appeal,” said Dilantha Vithanage, the group’s chief executive
Gnanasara maintains close ties with Wirathu, an extremist monk based in Myanmar whose hate speech has stoked religious tensions in that country.
Wirathu visited Sri Lanka as a guest of Gnanasara soon after the 2014 violence in Sri Lanka’s tourist resort of Aluthgama.
Additional reporting by Reuters